Posted on: November 14, 2008 1:27 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2008 9:46 pm

Final thoughts on the upcoming Big East season

Now that every team has been previewed, it's time for me to collect my thoughts. This league is probably one of the toughest in history to predict, but I'm going to take a shot at it. First I'll arrange the teams by tiers, then I'll project the finish, and finally I'll have some thoughts on how the conference teams will do in the preseason tournaments. I had about 80% of this finished when my browser crashed before, so this is more hurried and probably has dropped in quality; apologies for that.

I believe that the nine-team-in projection is not at all far-fetched, and that as many as 12 might see some postseason play or other. It will all depend on nonconference performance and the new conference tourney format. I'm excited for the first Big East games tonight, starting at 7 PM, and can't wait for the season in general. Now, on to business...

Tiers of Teams

Stratifying the league even this way is difficult. There are four preseason title contenders, and I agree that they're the most likely winners, but I doubt they finish 1-4. The next groups of teams are hard to separate, with a lot of teams bearing hugely talented rosters and similar weak spots. Regardless, I think I have come up with a reasonable, though admittedly subjective, set of crieteria for differentiating what we've got. (Each tier is listed alphabetically)

Tier One:

Connecticut, Louisville

These teams have the best combination of talent, balance, and depth to be the clear-cut favorites. They aren't the only two who could win the league, but I'd be surprised if either finished outside the top 4.

Tier Two:

Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

These teams have a ton of returning talent, but lack either the balance (Pitt) or the depth (ND) to be favored over the above teams. The next group of teams could easily displace either of these, but I'd be surprised if either finished lower than sixth.

Tier Three:

Marquette, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia

Between tiers three and four is in my opinion the toughest place to draw a line. The distinction I drew is that these four teams I believe have the biggest chance to sneak into the top four, and would surprise me the most to finish out of the top half of the league.

Tier Four:

Georgetown, Providence

I believe one of these two teams will be left out of the Big Dance, and neither looks to me to have the talent to sneak into the top 4. Either one could surpass some of the teams in tier three, though, if things break the right way.

Tier Five:

Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall

These are the teams between NCAA rosters and terrible. I don't believe any is capable of squeezing into the top half of the league, but the one who puts together the best resume will probably land in the NIT. I think any of these could be competitive in some other conferences out there.

Tier Six:

DePaul, South Florida, St. John's

This is the dead weight. A 13th place finish would be a major victory for any of these three teams. I hate to be that harsh, but there's just no comparison between these rosters and most others in the Big East.

Projected Final Standings:

I'm not kidding when I say how hard this is. So before you flame me, homers, for having your team too low, remember that I've probably considered every legitimate argument your team has and decided that the others' have slightly more weight. Finishing tenth in this conference is not an insult...that team will be a very good one whether it's my pick or not. So before you say there's "no way" it could be your team, really consider the competition. I believe anyone but my top five could actually end up in the ten spot. OK, no more hedging, here's my order.

  1. Louisville (NCAA) They're my pick thanks to an easier schedule than the Huskies
  2. Connecticut (NCAA) They have the most talent, but a very rough road.
  3. Pittsburgh (NCAA) I pick them here largely because they get my next two teams at the Peterson Events Center, where they don't lose many games.
  4. Syracuse (NCAA) Someone will oust one of the "top four" and my pick is the Orange. I choose them because I believe they have the best combination of returning scorers and new talent from my "tier three" teams.
  5. Notre Dame (NCAA) I choose them to be bumped from the top four because I believe they are the least set up for the long haul. Their talent makes them capable of beating any team, but its concentration in two or three players makes them vulnerable.
  6. Villanova (NCAA) Experience wins my vote among some hard to separate squads.
  7. West Virginia (NCAA) The Mountaineers return more talent than most realize, and have an excellent recruiting class. They will have the best defense of several BE teams relying on forwards and no center up front.
  8. Marquette (NCAA) I hate to pick a team with this much talent this low, but teams 1-7 are that good.
  9. Providence (NCAA) They have the schedule to make something of a run, and more talent than you think.
  10. Georgetown (NIT) There. I did it. The Hoyas are reloading and I think it costs them. If they prove me wrong (higher than 8th place) I'll eat my crow.
  11. Seton Hall (NIT) I throw them up here largely because of Cincinnati's injuries, but also recognizing that here are some good pieces in place here.
  12. Cincinnati (CBI) They were going to be my surprise NCAA pick until they lost three players. Watch out for this team in 2009-2010
  13. Rutgers (none) They have enough players I like to keep them out of the bottom three.
  14. St. John's (none) Down at this level, experience is king, and they have grown together as a team and are well-coached.
  15. DePaul (none) I give them a slight edge over the Bulls.
  16. South Florida (none) I could really see a 1-17 conference record here, with a home win over DePaul.
So there it is. Teams 8 and 9, whether they are my picks or not, had better 1) excel in the ooc and 2) not flame out in the BE tournament. If that happens it will get the top 12 a chance to play in a postseason tournament. Of course, teams 9-12 had better win those opening round games, too...

The Big East in preseason tournaments

Connecticut - Paradise Jam
They get an opening round matchup with La Salle that should be an easy win. Anything short of winning this tournament would be something of a failure, but Miami, San Diego, and Wisconsin are all very dangerous. I'd most like to see the SD - UCONN matchup in the final. I'll say UCONN wins it, but it won't be easy.

Georgetown - Old Spice Classic
There' a very winnable opening round game against Wichita State, followed by a matchup with Siena or Tennessee. That second round game could be tough for the Hoyas to win. I think they face Tennessee (though Siena could surprise some folks) and lose. That would put them in the 3rd/5th place game with either Gonzaga or Michigan State, both games I think they would lose. With its 5th place finish, I think we will learn that Georgetown isn't a top 25 team just yet.

Notre Dame - Maui Invitational
OK, I have said that I think Indiana could stun Notre Dame in this opening round game for a number of reasons. Understand that that only means I give them about a 10% chance. Notre Dame should win that game. If they avoid that crazy upset, I believe they will defeat Texas and face UNC in the title game. Anything could happen there with Hansbrough out, or even with him playing 80%. This is an opportunity for the Big East to really flex a muscle early.

Pittsburgh - Legends Classic
This almost doesn't deserve mention, but it is a preseason tournament...Pittsburgh first hosts Akron and Indiana (PA) (Fairleigh Dickinson, though in the tournament, doesn't count as part of the tournament in tonight's game @ Pitt). If Pitt loses either of those...OK, let's not think about that, but even if they do they meet Texas Tech in the semifinal and then either Mississippi State or Washinton State in the final. If Pittsburgh doesn't win the thing it will be a major failure.

Providence - Anaheim Classic
This is to me one of the more intriguing preseason tournaments, as it is loaded with teams trying to sneak into the national discussion but no clear powerhouses. There will be no easy games for the Friars, but I'm going to say they knock off Baylor, Arizona State, and Wake Forest consecutively to take home the title and secure one heck of an ooc resume. I realize I'm out on a limb, but Providence is better than the attention they're getting, and I look for them to prove it in a big way.

Seton Hall - Puerto Rico Season Tip Off
The Pirates will be without transfer Robert Mitchell for this tournament, and because of that I think they lose to USC with little contest. I do think they can win the loser's bracket and capture fourth place, though, with Chattanooga and Missouri as the likely opponents.

St. John's - NIT Season Tip Off
Cornell is a better team than St. John's, so I will say the Red storm likely go home early. However, if they pull that upset, the next round against Boston College or Loyola (MD) is easier. Again, I expect one-and-done, but if they win the first they might just win two. I see very little chance of further advance than that.

Syracuse - CBE Classic
This is the same format as the Legends Classic but less of a joke. Syracuse has all but assured wins in LeMoyne and Richmond to get things going, followed by a tough smeifinal against Florida. I say that Syracuse gets it done, beating Florida and then the defending champs. I think Florida will be the tougher of the two games, but this is the Orange's Chance to say "we're here."

Roundup: So, I see four preseason tournament champions (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Syracuse), one runner-up (Notre Dame) and two top half finishes (Georgetown, Seton Hall) for the Big East. The lone one-and-done I suspect will be St. John's. 

Note tournaments that I couldn't find brackets for include: West Virginia and DePaul in the Las Vegas Invitational, Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic, Villanova in the Philly Classic, Marquette in the Chicago Invitational Challenge, and South Florida in the San Juan Shootout.  Of those, the most important game I'm aware of is a WV-Kentucky matchup, which I'll go ahead and pick the Mountaineers to win.

So, there you have it, my complete opinion on Big East basketball '08-'09. Thanks to everyone who took the time to bother reading all this the last few weeks; I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together. Let me know what you think, even if you think I'm an idiot, because I want to hear it! Also, check out the Second Annual year-long Big East thread for constant discussion of all relevant Big East topics. Go Big East!
Posted on: October 27, 2008 8:37 pm

Big East Preview 5, Louisville Cardinals

Another of the preseason favorites in the Big East.  I think they're my pick to win the conference regular season (which doesn't necessarily imply that I think they are its best team).  There's a lot going on with this team, what with departing players and new faces, a bit of a fiasco wth one now infamous Caracter, and a coach who is ideal to lead a situation like that.  Below is my breakdown of why I think they're so good, and what I think their upper and lower limits are.

27-9 Overall, 14-4 Big East (2nd)
Eliminated in Big East tournament second round by eventual champion Pittsburgh
Elite Eight, lost to North Carolina


Derrick Caracter         F
Earl Clark                   G/F
Terrance Farley          C
Preston Knowles       G
Andre McGee              G
Stuart Miller                 G
David Padgett            F/C
Juan Palacious          F
Will Scott                     G
Jerry Smith                  G
Edgar Sosa                G
Lee Steiden                F
Terrence Williams     F


Caracter, Farley, Miller, Padgett, Palacious, Scott

Teams that make the Elite Eight and lose six players tend not to return there, but some see Caracter's leaving as a blessing.  Padgett and Palacious open a hole, but it looks like they have an answer to that.  I have to add, though, that the Cards struggled when those two were injured and out of the lineup.


Reginald Delk   G (transfer from Mississippi State)  He is being lost in the shuffle, with the impressive recruiting class below grabbing a lot of headlines and the returning stars taking the others.  I think his impact will be felt, though, because he adds another option in the backcourt.  This isn't a team that lives and dies by its guard play, but they can mix it up back there and Delk makes it that much easier.

George Goode        F  (redshirt)
Terrence Jennings F
Kyle Kuric                 G
Samardo Samuels F
Jared Swopshire     F

So, this team goes from Padgett, Palacious, and Caracter up front to Samuels, Swopshire, and Jennings (perhaps Goode).  They lose a lot up front, but Samuels is the best athlete on that list.  His showing in the Red vs. White scrimmage tells me that he will step right in.  Swopshire and Jennings may need more time, but may prove to be an improvement over their predecessors by season's end.  Ateam that was dominant in the paint last year and lost the whole crew might actually be better in the paint by this March.  I'm five teams into my previews, and so far only DePaul has a less than stellar recruiting class.  Wow.

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games
:  Morehead State, Western Kentucky, Indiana State, Ohio, Lamar, Austin Peay, Mississippi, Minnesota, UAB, UNLV, Kentucky

This to me is the (almost) perfect nonconference slate.  It starts easy, then ramps up as the Big East games approach.  My only criticism is that it could use a truly dominant opponent (which MAYBE UNLV is).  The Cards could realistically sweep this, and it isn't completely filled with cupcakes.

Two Time Opponents
:  Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia

This is a sampling of the Big East: one of the frontrunners, a second-tier team, and a bottom feeder.  Very fair.

Remaining Roadies:  Villanova, Rutgers, Syracuse, St. John's, Cincinnati, Georgetown

They avoid traveling to some of the more difficult arenas.  Their two toughest road games may be against teams they also get at home (ND, WVU).

Home Games
:  Pittsburgh, Connecticut, DePaul, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall

There are four teams in the BE making most preseason top tens...Louisville is one and they host the other three.  They DO also go to South Bend, but I think they have the most favorable BE schedule of the four favorites.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     The new frontcourt steps in and dominates much like the old from day 1.  Sosa, Smith, Clark, and Delk spread out the scoring out of the backcourt and rotate the hot hand.  They cruise through the early season, notching big wins over UNLV and Kentucky.  They manage to get Pitt and UConn in the early going, and split with Notre Dame...powering them to a regular season Big East crown.  They get at least to the semifinals of the conference tournament, earning them a 1 or 2 seed.  In the NCAAs, they avenge last year's loss to North Carolina on their way to a Final Four or perhaps even a national title.

Worst Case Scenario:
   They have a little trouble figuring out who is who up front, apart from Samuels.  The guards distribute the ball well, but no one averages better than 10 or 11 a game.  They lose their last two nonconference games, and limp into Big East play on a losing streak.  They right the ship against South Florida, but then get upset at Villanova and lose at home to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.  Things go better later, but the three early Big East losses are enough to keep them from the title discussion and they finish in the 5-7 range in the conference.  They win themselves into the quarterfinals in the BE tourney, but can't beat the team they face there.  In the NCAA tournament they outplay their seed, but fail to get past the Sweet Sixteen.

My Take:
    I think Louisville has the inside track to the Big East regular season crown, as stated above.  The reasons are that they return a lot of talent, supplement it with perhaps the Big East's best freshman, and have the "easiest" conference schedule of the frontrunners.  Even if they don't win, they should be in the hunt.  I suspect that one of the other talented teams will keep them from sweeping both BE titles, but they could end up with a number one seed easily, because winning the Be will carry a lot of weight.  They are legit as a title contender.  Now on to my concerns.  They have a TON of talent up front, and Samardo Samuels should step right in...but the other guys might not be ready so immediately.  I'm not in love with any one of their guards, though they are very deep at the position.  I don't think there's a lot of dropoff from Clark and Sosa to Smith and Delk, and even Kurik could get into the mix.  I don't really think they have an elite outside shooter though.  The biggest criticism of the Cards is that they are young in their strength (in the paint) and that all their experience is in the backcourt, which isn't where the bulk of their talent lies.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 8, 2008 1:28 pm

Week 6 NFL picks and explanations

The league has finally started to separate itself, and the last two weeks have had some very difficult to predict games.  But there are still a ton of teams in the balance (I'm talking to you Dolphins, Saints, and Falcons, among others) and this week could see some more things crystallize.  Of course, it could also see some teams slide or drop into that middle ground.  Man, October football is great!

Panthers (4-1) at Buccaneers (3-2)
    This looks like the game to see this week.  These teams are eerily similar.  Both can run the ball-with powerful duos instead of one feature back.  Both can stop the run.  Tampa Bay has the edge on the ground.  The Panthers, though, can throw it, and are a little better at stopping the pass.  These teams are close.  Both, though, have struggled with penalties.  The more disciplined team wins this game, and it's easier to be disciplined at home.
Bucaneers 20-17

Bears (3-2) at Falcons (3-2)
    Another exciting game involving an NFC South team.  The Bears appear to be the favorite in a weakened NFC North, but the Falcons have played better than expected.  I look for the Bears defense to win this one, and here's why:  What the Bears have given up they've surrendered through the air, and Atlanta has been doing its damage on the ground.
Bears 21-10

Rams (0-4) at Redskins (4-1)

    This one looks easy.  Is it one of those deceptive, "why they play the games" contests?  No.  The Redskins are for real, and the Rams are really this bad.  The new coach gets them some points, though.
Redskins 38-14

Bengals (0-5) at Jets (2-2)
    The Jets are coming off a bye, Brett Favre just threw 6 TD passes, and the Bengals are in shambles.  That's why I know I'm out on a limb here.  But the Bengals are too good to stay winless much longer.  Not good, but better than 0-6.  Cincinnati goes into New York and stuns the J-E-T-S.
Bengals 24-21

Raiders (1-3) at Saints (2-3)
    That decision to fire the coach - and withhold pay - made a bad situation worse.  The Saints are hurting, and I think their injuries keep them out of the postseason, but they get a win here to even their record.  They're just plain better than the Raiders, they're at home, and Oakland is a mess.
Saints 30-20

Lions (0-4)  at Vikings (2-2)
    Are the Lions or the Rams the worst in the league?  It doesn't matter, because both are much worse than the Vikings, who have been inspired by Gus Frerotte of all people.  The Vikings continue their recent roll.
Vikings 24-10

Ravens (2-2) at Colts (2-2)
    Both of these teams need a win here if they want to stay close to the Steelers and Titans, respectively.  The Colts have struggled every week, but the Ravens rely entirely on a defense.  That D is good, but not good enough to stop Peyton Manning and all his weapons.  Indy should be riding high after escaping the Texans, as well.
Colts 17-14

Dolphins (2-2) at Texans (0-4)
    Everyone is on the Dolphins bandwagon after seeing them take down the Patriots and Chargers.  Not me.  They had a game plan for the depleted Patriots, and the Chargers are not as good as they were.  LT just isn't getting it done, for whatever reason.  Can they really get up for an 0-4 team the way they did against their last two opponents?  I don't think they can.
Texans 21-17

Jaguars (2-3) at Broncos (4-1)
    This is a tough one.  The Jaguars can run it and the Broncos have a soft defense.  The Jags also seem to have Denver's number.  This time, though, I don't think they can stop Jay Cutler.  The Broncos get a scare, but come out on top.
Broncos 31-27

Packers (2-3) at Seahawks (1-3)
    Nothing like a trip to one of this season's biggest busts to right the ship.  That Packer D is a problem, but the Seattle offense just isn't.  Aaron Rodgers will have a pretty good day.
Packers 34-14

Eagles (2-3) at 49ers (2-3)
    This is a battle of two teams more talented than their records.  The Eagles, though, have proven more than the Niners.  Most teams would be 1-3 over a stretch of Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington.  Folks outside the NFC East are reluctant to admit how good those four teams are.  This just in: VERY good.  Maybe the Eagles are the worst of the bunch, but that's still better than average.  This game, though, will surprise people with how good it is.
Eagles 31-28

Cowboys (4-1) at Cardinals (3-2)
    Is Dallas the most talented team in the league?  Maybe.  Arizona can run and gun with them, though..and both teams have questions to answer on the defense.  This will be a wild one, and I give the advantage to the home team.  An unpopular pick, I'm sure...and I'll gladly eat crow if I'm wrong.
Arizona 38-35

Patriots (3-1) at Chargers (2-3)
    The Patriots are without their golden boy...we know already.  The Chargers have theirs (Ladanian Tomlinson) but he hasn't really shown up this year.  The Pats just won one tough game on the West Coast, and I think they finish the trip with another W.  Belichick can really coach 'em, and he has figured out how to make that offense work with Matt Cassel at the helm.
Patriots 17-14

Giants (4-0) at Browns (1-3)
    The undefeated defending champs against the 1-3 Browns coming off a bye.  I'll take the champs, though not by 38 like last week.
Giants 28-12

Open Dates:

Bills:     They get good news in an extra week for their ailing QB to heal, and more good news, I say, in Jets and Dolphins losses.  They also learn, though, that the PAtriots are going to be their to push them all year.

Chiefs:     This poor team gets a week to stew over their spanking in Carolina.  We'll have to wait to find out of they or Oakland are the worst in that division.  If you ask me, it has two bottom five teams.

Steelers:     Another team with an extra week to heal.  They need it after a punishing Monday Night game against the Ravens and another hard-hitting match with Jacksonville.  They showed that the NFC North is heirs to seize by winning those two games with injuries, and the week to rest will only help.

Titans:     The open date might actually hurt them, because they might see the Colts creep a little closer and it pauses that roll they've been on.  They should bat the Chiefs in their week back, but a loss to Indy in week 8 could really change things in that division.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com